The Gaelic Tradition: 'Illean Bithibh Sunndach

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About this Song

This is one of Cape Breton's best known milling songs. It's sung by the Grand Mira Gaelic Chorus. Watch a re-enactment of a milling frolic here.

'Illean Bithibh Sunndach, 1972. The Grand Mira Gaelic Chorus. T-583. Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University.

Lyrics

Sèist
O 'illean bithibh sunndach
A-null air a bhòidse,
A' fàgail ar dùthcha
'S gun dùil ri tighinn beo innt'.
O ' illean bithibh sunndach
A-null air a bhòidse.

1. Gur mise tha fo ghruaimean
Bhith dol a shiubhal chuantan,
'S i soitheach dubh a' ghuail
Tha 'gam fhuadach thar m' eòlas.

2. Tha sinn dol dh' Aimeireaga
Far nach bi curam eil' oirnn'
Cho fad's a mhaireas coille dhuinn
An eilean Nòbha Scòtia.

3. 'Illean cridheil togarrach
A nì an t-òl 's nach obadh e,
'S ann an Tobar Mhoire
Nì sinn coinneamh 's an tigh-òsta.

4. An gleann a' bharraich uaine
'S an lag am biodh an luachair,
Far 'm bi crodh-laoigh air bhuaile
'S na gruagaichean dol fòdhpa.

5. Tha sinn dol Cheap Breatainn
Gu taobh na h-abhainn Mhira,
Far am bi na smeòraich
A' seinn ruinn fad an t-samhraidh.

Translation:

Boys Be in Good Spirits

Chorus
Boys be in good spirits
Across on the voyage,
Leaving our country
Without hope of returning alive.
Boys be in good spirits
Across on the voyage.

I am despondent
To be about to travel oceans;
It is the black coal-fired vessel
That is banishing me from familiar territory.

We are going to America,
Where we shall have no more worry
As long as forests remain for us
In the isle of Nova Scotia.

Hearty enthusiastic lads
Who can take a drink and not refuse one,
It's in Tobermory
That we shall meet in the pub.

In the glen of the green branches,
In the hollow of the rushes,
Where dairy cows are in the fold
Being milked by young maidens.

We are going to Cape Breton,
Beside the Mira River
Where the thrushes will sing for us
All summer long.